10/16/2003 12:00AM

Favorites with flaws


ELMONT, N.Y. - One thing about New York-breds: You give them a day, and boy will they show up. Saturday's 10-race Showcase Day card at Belmont Park attracted 126 runners, an average exceeding 12 per race.

Big fields are what horseplayers crave. What they like even better are big fields with vulnerable favorites, and there are certainly no shortage of those in the seven stakes races that are capped off by a pick four with a $500,000 "guaranteed" pool.

A review of the stakes races points out several favorites and/or highweighted horses who may be potential traps, due either to physical issues, disadvantageous tactical setups, or both. Playing devil's advocate with the chalk and reputation horses, here are the things handicappers will point to if they bite the dust . . .

Maid of the Mist: Capeside Lady may be odds-on after demolishing her rivals on the front end in the J.A. Gimma three weeks ago. Remember, however, that the even-money favorite in that race, Wild Berry, chased Capeside Lady and came up totally empty in the stretch. Moreover, the race was run on a muddy, speed-favoring track that produced seven early-pace type winners.

Capeside Lady, who has yet to run two good races in a row, now gives seven pounds to the field, and stretches out to a mile for the first time.

Sleepy Hollow: It's tough to gauge who the favorite will be, because Friends Lake, Pa Pa Da, and Flagshipenterprise are closely matched on Beyers in limited starts.

Complicating matters: Friends Lake has been idle for nearly two months since running a figure of 83; Pa Pa Da, the only entrant to have run at the one-mile distance, is coming off a turf race; and Flagshipenterprise benefited from that same speed-favoring muddy track wiring the B.F. Bongard, and picks up five pounds as a result.

Iroquois: Again, it's unclear who the favorite will be, but the two highweights at 123 pounds have their work cut out.

She's Got the Beat might have been the choice after spending her summer in graded stakes, but she drew miserably out in post 13, and has only run once at seven furlongs.

Shawklit Mint, meanwhile, wired a three-horse running of the Vagrancy Handicap here back on June 8, but the effort knocked her off form. After finishing far back in the Princess Rooney and Honorable Miss, she has been sidelined for 11 weeks, and one of her recent workouts was an absurdly slow three-furlong move in 40 seconds. "She needed a breather," said trainer Patrick Reynolds. "She ran a top figure in the Vagrancy, and we were kind of pushing it with her running down to Calder . . ."

Ticonderoga: Dynamic Lisa was 47-1 when she finished fast for third in this race last year, but you're more likely to get something like 8-5 on her this time around. She looks like the right one to single in the first leg of the pick four, after an impossibly wide trip in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel Handicap. But she is picking up 10 pounds off that race and has a deep-closing style that puts her at the mercy of the early pace and potential traffic trouble.

Hudson: Based on Beyer Figures alone, Bossanova would be lock city off back-to-back 109's. The problem is that those races came on May 10 and June 28, after which he underwent surgery to clean up some ankle chips.

Bossanova shows five published workouts, none of them longer than a half-mile, which is never a good sign with returnees. He is also facing older sprinters for the first time and is drawn on the far outside, raising the specter of a wide trip in an early skirmish with fellow speedballs Top Shoter and Gratiaen.

Mohawk: Quantum Merit and Irish Colonial may vie for favoritism, but those who remember that last year's Mohawk went to $93 bomb Quiet Ruler may opt to spread in the pick four's third leg.

There's nothing wrong with Quantum Merit, per se, it's just that Richard Migliore stole last month's A.T. Cole with him. She set up shop on the lead through a 49-second opening half, and everyone behind him failed to fire. What's more, the Cole was Quantum Merit's second big win in nine days, and with today's Thoroughbreds, who the heck knows what's left in his tank?

Irish Colonial gives weight to the field, as much as a dozen pounds, partly because he has won his last three turf starts against statebreds, including a four-length romp in the Kingston, and because of a respectable effort in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap last time out.

Last time out was Belmont Stakes Day, though, due to a problematic splint, and Irish Colonial is eligible to be a short horse off just four published works - again, none of them beyond a half-mile.

Empire Classic: Well Fancied is a what speed-figure players might term a "quadruple fig," his last four Beyers of 109-108-107-105 all faster than the last four of any rival.

Two problems:

* Well Fancied has now run a new top figure four times in a row; sooner or later there is going to be a regression.

* The distance - a handicapping basic - is an issue for Well Fancied, who has been primarily a sprinter, and who enjoyed an uncontested early lead in the Evan Shipman at 1 1/16 miles in July, which is the only route showing in his record. Throw in high weight of 124 pounds, and a potential early struggle with the 5-for-6 Traffic Chief, and Well Fancied has a tough row to hoe.